CHECKLISTS

Timothy and Titus – Inconspicuous Leadership

1 Timothy 5 checklistI am a list maker…even in retirement from my secular work. For me, what doesn’t get listed, doesn’t get done. It is also very rewarding for me to check that item off the list when it is accomplished. The list has a progression of priorities. One task cannot happen until another task is completed. And so life goes with my lists guiding my behavior and productivity.

As I journal each morning in my conversational prayer with God, the Father, His Spirit guides me to make another list that helps me to mature and grow in Him. I am convicted of some of those “fruits of the Spirit” that I have not tended to or cultivated, have ignored or left undone. His Holy Spirit redirects my thoughts and helps me form a list of tasks that will help me improve my behavior. “Keep a close check on yourself”, writes Paul to Timothy. For me, that means to make a spiritual checklist that keeps me in close contact with the will and purpose of our Father, God and helps me to grow closer to Him.

We can do nothing of significance without God. I am convinced that He guides us to all things that are good for our growth and aid our learning about Him and how He works. Paul also gives Timothy sound advice about how to treat those whom God has called to lead with character traits with another list of how to lead. This list still applies to us today. The theme of this episode seems to be; Know God, Know Yourself, Know The Message, Know Your Audience. Our deeds, good and bad, will be evident. Be driven by God’s love in us.

1 Timothy 5, The Message

17-18 Give a bonus to leaders who do a good job, especially the ones who work hard at preaching and teaching. Scripture tells us, “Don’t muzzle a working ox” and “A worker deserves his pay.”

19 Don’t listen to a complaint against a leader that isn’t backed up by two or three responsible witnesses.

20 If anyone falls into sin, call that person on the carpet. Those who are inclined that way will know right off they can’t get by with it.

21-23 God and Jesus and angels all back me up in these instructions. Carry them out without favoritism, without taking sides. Don’t appoint people to church leadership positions too hastily. If a person is involved in some serious sins, you don’t want to become an unwitting accomplice. In any event, keep a close check on yourself. And don’t worry too much about what the critics will say. Go ahead and drink a little wine, for instance; it’s good for your digestion, good medicine for what ails you.

24-25 The sins of some people are blatant and march them right into court. The sins of others don’t show up until much later. The same with good deeds. Some you see right off, but none are hidden forever.

1 Timothy 5 check yourselfLEADERSHIP PRINCIPLE #6: Keep a Close Check on Yourself

Leadership Characteristics –

–Fully rely on God. Trust Him with all you are and all you have. We are His. All we have is His.
–Ask God “if there is anything offensive to you, cleanse me.” as the Psalmist prayed.
–Repent with a heart and mind not wanting to return to the old life.
–Look full into the face of Jesus, our Master, Lord and Savior with laser focus so we know what direction to take next.
–“Keep a close check on yourself.” Avoid, “he did it, I can, too” or “my sin is not as bad as his sin” or “everybody’s doing it” mentality.
–Ask God for wisdom, insight and understanding.
–Allow God’s transformation to continue in our lives.
–Ask God to make your lists of to BE and to DO. HE will prioritize your lists in ways you cannot imagine! Where He guides, He provides help all along the journey.
–Do all in a Spirit of love for God and others.
–Care enough to confront others with God’s love and concern for their spiritual well-being and growth.

Warning   The things on our spiritual check list can never be crossed off because we’ll be working on them our whole lives. By listing we are reminding ourselves of what we need to work on to “keep a close check” on our lives. It is only by The Atonement of Jesus Christ can we accomplish anything of eternal significance.

Dear Heavenly Father,
You have convinced me that we must do spiritual “business” with You each day to improve our being in You. Thank you for helping us on this journey. Thank you for Your Holy Spirit that points out things in our behavior that could cause us to crash…before crashing. Thank you for always being with us, guiding and directing, loving and protecting and challenging us to grow and bear Fruit. Continue to transform me. Transform your church. Transform the world through your church.
In Jesus Name, Amen

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GOD BLESSES OBEDIENCE

Genesis – First, God.
 
Genesis 26 waterWe are not perfect, only perfectly forgiven by a gracious God who provides where He guides and blesses those who believe Him and obey His teachings. Our faith is not based on a feeling but on the very foundation of our being laid by our belief in the death and resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ. All that we are and all that we think, say or do must be built on this foundation. Do we mess up and stray from the building codes and plans from time to time? Yes! Does God leave us? No! He was, is and always will be with those who believe. He will help us to stop, rebuild and move on in the constant construction of our Faith.
 
“My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus name
 
On Christ the solid rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand…”
 
Our Bible heroes of Faith were not perfect, either. Fear of the enemy pushed them to lie in order to save their physical lives. Fear replaced faith in these instances for a short while until they realized God was in control the whole time.
 
HOLY PAUSE
What do you fear this day?
 
Genesis 26 wells of our livesIsaac, son of Abraham, faces the fear of powerful people in the land that God gave His people to possess. He repeats the lie his father told, telling the inhabitants of the land, that his wife was his sister. Didn’t he learn from the mistakes of his father? Apparently not.
 
God provides a “course correction” for Isaac in his fear. Faith replaced the fear once more, as with Abraham, and Isaac was blessed beyond his wildest dreams.
 
Later, when faced with opposition by an envious and jealous enemy because of Isaac’s blessed wealth, Isaac responded with greater wisdom. Instead of fighting or lying, he shared the wealth and dug more wells to provide water for the land. He avoided a war over water. God blessed his faith in action.
 
Genesis 26 do not fear“I am the God of Abraham your father;
don’t fear a thing because I’m with you.
I’ll bless you and make your children flourish
because of Abraham my servant.”
 
Isaac responded to God’s declared Presence and assurance with immediate worship. Since digging wells were so successful, he dug another. God blessed once more with gushing waters!
 
His former neighboring enemy king saw and heard what was happening. Abimelech saw Isaac’s witness of God’s power! “We’ve realized that God is on your side. We’d like to make a deal between us—a covenant that we maintain friendly relations.” Isaac’s obedience to God led to peace with the enemy.
 
WHAT DO WE LEARN?
 
Genesis 26 salvation1. Fear cannot occupy the same space as Faith. You have one or the other. You cannot have both at the same time.
2. Fear does not equate with God’s wisdom (skills for living). Fear turns to self will and hinders or negates our obedience. Fear causes us to “shoot from the hip” in decision making, falling back on our sin nature. We move into survival mode leaving God’s thriving mode.
3. When Faith in God leads the way, the way is made clearer and is easier to navigate. Faith is the foundation to devoted obedience.
Genesis 26 Gods blessings4. Obedience to God, because of Faith, opens the floodgates of God’s blessings.
5. Go when God says go. Stay when God says stay.
6. It’s all about God. He is in control. His glory will be seen. Even when we mess up, God’s will is accomplished.
7. It’s not about us or self glorification. It is about God’s Presence in us. It is about declaring God’s power. We pray, God works. We obey, God blesses with building our faith.
 
Genesis 26, The Message
There was a famine in the land, as bad as the famine during the time of Abraham. And Isaac went down to Abimelech, king of the Philistines, in Gerar.
 
2-5 God appeared to him and said, “Don’t go down to Egypt; stay where I tell you. Stay here in this land and I’ll be with you and bless you. I’m giving you and your children all these lands, fulfilling the oath that I swore to your father Abraham. I’ll make your descendants as many as the stars in the sky and give them all these lands. All the nations of the Earth will get a blessing for themselves through your descendants. And why? Because Abraham obeyed my summons and kept my charge—my commands, my guidelines, my teachings.”
 
6 So Isaac stayed put in Gerar.
 
7 The men of the place questioned him about his wife. He said, “She’s my sister.” He was afraid to say “She’s my wife.” He was thinking, “These men might kill me to get Rebekah, she’s so beautiful.”
 
8-9 One day, after they had been there quite a long time, Abimelech, king of the Philistines, looked out his window and saw Isaac fondling his wife Rebekah. Abimelech sent for Isaac and said, “So, she’s your wife. Why did you tell us ‘She’s my sister’?”
 
Isaac said, “Because I thought I might get killed by someone who wanted her.”
 
10 Abimelech said, “But think of what you might have done to us! Given a little more time, one of the men might have slept with your wife; you would have been responsible for bringing guilt down on us.”
Genesis 26 wells
11 Then Abimelech gave orders to his people: “Anyone who so much as lays a hand on this man or his wife dies.”
 
12-15 Isaac planted crops in that land and took in a huge harvest. God blessed him. The man got richer and richer by the day until he was very wealthy. He accumulated flocks and herds and many, many servants, so much so that the Philistines began to envy him. They got back at him by throwing dirt and debris into all the wells that his father’s servants had dug back in the days of his father Abraham, clogging up all the wells.
 
Genesis 26 digging wells16 Finally, Abimelech told Isaac: “Leave. You’ve become far too big for us.”
 
17-18 So Isaac left. He camped in the valley of Gerar and settled down there. Isaac dug again the wells which were dug in the days of his father Abraham but had been clogged up by the Philistines after Abraham’s death. And he renamed them, using the original names his father had given them.
 
1old brick and concrete deep well9-24 One day, as Isaac’s servants were digging in the valley, they came on a well of spring water. The shepherds of Gerar quarreled with Isaac’s shepherds, claiming, “This water is ours.” So Isaac named the well Esek (Quarrel) because they quarreled over it. They dug another well and there was a difference over that one also, so he named it Sitnah (Accusation). He went on from there and dug yet another well. But there was no fighting over this one so he named it Rehoboth (Wide-Open Spaces), saying, “Now God has given us plenty of space to spread out in the land.” From there he went up to Beersheba. That very night God appeared to him and said,
 
I am the God of Abraham your father;
don’t fear a thing because I’m with you.
I’ll bless you and make your children flourish
because of Abraham my servant.
 
25 Isaac built an altar there and prayed, calling on God by name. He pitched his tent and his servants started digging another well.
 
26-27 Then Abimelech came to him from Gerar with Ahuzzath his advisor and Phicol the head of his troops. Isaac asked them, “Why did you come to me? You hate me; you threw me out of your country.”
 
Genesis 26 redig28-29 They said, “We’ve realized that God is on your side. We’d like to make a deal between us—a covenant that we maintain friendly relations. We haven’t bothered you in the past; we treated you kindly and let you leave us in peace. So—God’s blessing be with you!”
 
30-31 Isaac laid out a feast and they ate and drank together. Early in the morning they exchanged oaths. Then Isaac said good-bye and they parted as friends.
 
32-33 Later that same day, Isaac’s servants came to him with news about the well they had been digging, “We’ve struck water!” Isaac named the well Sheba (Oath), and that’s the name of the city, Beersheba (Oath-Well), to this day.
 
34-35 When Esau was forty years old he married Judith, daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Basemath, daughter of Elon the Hittite. They turned out to be thorns in the sides of Isaac and Rebekah.
 
Genesis 26 overcome fearOh Lord,
We do not want to be shackled by self. The burden of doing things our own way self propels us by fear which leads to doubt and foolishness. Break those chains and set us free. Help us to trust and obey quickly with hearts’ desires to please you. Lead us to the wide open spaces of your love, mercy and grace. I am your servant. I’m listening. I’m ready to obey. Where are we going and what are we going to do today, Abba Father?
In Jesus Name, Amen
 
When darkness veils His lovely face
I rest on His unchanging grace
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil
 
His oath His covenant His blood
Supports me in the ‘whelming flood
When all around my soul gives way
He then is all my hope and stay
 
On Christ the solid rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand…
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HAPPY, BLESSED DASH

Genesis – First, God
 
Genesis 25 the dash
We will live and then we will die. That is the worldview of the life cycle. On our traditional grave marker will be the date we were born into this world, a dash, and then the date we depart. How will we live between these two important dates? Who are we and how are we living in the “dash”.
 
A poem has been written about living well in the dash between life and death. It was written by a mourning wife who’s husband had just died. Her tender words plead for people to think about being more kind, generous, respectful and loving in the “dash” between life and death. It is meaningful and thought provoking. I think of it as I read Genesis 25 that gives us a quick summary of the “dash” life of Abraham, Friend of God.
 
Observe these key character traits in Abraham’s “dash” living:
 
–Love God firstGenesis 25 legacy keys
–Love Others
–Be kind and generous to family and friends
–Be humble
–Put others (Lot and family) ahead of your own gain
–Be wise in your dealings with neighbors and enemies
–Walk with God
–Listen to God
–Talk with God
–Repentant and Forgiven
 
“He died happy at a ripe old age, full of years, and was buried with his family.” Did he die “happy” because of these traits?
 
Is that how we will leave this earth…happy, blessed and fulfilled?
 
Who am I in the “dash”? What am I doing? Will I leave earth as Abraham did…happy and blessed?
 
Genesis 25, The Message
1-2 Abraham married a second time; his new wife was named Keturah. She gave birth to Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah.
 
3 Jokshan had Sheba and Dedan.
 
Dedan’s descendants were the Asshurim, the Letushim, and the Leummim.
 
4 Midian had Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abida, and Eldaah—all from the line of Keturah.
 
5-6 But Abraham gave everything he possessed to Isaac. While he was still living, he gave gifts to the sons he had by his concubines, but then sent them away to the country of the east, putting a good distance between them and his son Isaac.
 
Colorful sunrise at the field with morning fog7-11 Abraham lived 175 years. Then he took his final breath. He died happy at a ripe old age, full of years, and was buried with his family. His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah in the field of Ephron son of Zohar the Hittite, next to Mamre. It was the field that Abraham had bought from the Hittites. Abraham was buried next to his wife Sarah. After Abraham’s death, God blessed his son Isaac. Isaac lived at Beer Lahai Roi.
 
The Family Tree of Ishmael
12 This is the family tree of Ishmael son of Abraham, the son that Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah’s maid, bore to Abraham.
 
13-16 These are the names of Ishmael’s sons in the order of their births: Nebaioth, Ishmael’s firstborn, Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah—all the sons of Ishmael. Their settlements and encampments were named after them. Twelve princes with their twelve tribes.
 
17-18 Ishmael lived 137 years. When he breathed his last and died he was buried with his family. His children settled down all the way from Havilah near Egypt eastward to Shur in the direction of Assyria. The Ishmaelites didn’t get along with any of their kin.
 
Jacob and Esau
19-20 This is the family tree of Isaac son of Abraham: Abraham had Isaac. Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan Aram. She was the sister of Laban the Aramean.
 
Genesis 25 Isaac prayed21-23 Isaac prayed hard to God for his wife because she was barren. God answered his prayer and Rebekah became pregnant. But the children tumbled and kicked inside her so much that she said, “If this is the way it’s going to be, why go on living?” She went to God to find out what was going on. God told her,
 
Two nations are in your womb,
two peoples butting heads while still in your body.
One people will overpower the other,
and the older will serve the younger.
 
24-26 When her time to give birth came, sure enough, there were twins in her womb. The first came out reddish, as if snugly wrapped in a hairy blanket; they named him Esau (Hairy). His brother followed, his fist clutched tight to Esau’s heel; they named him Jacob (Heel). Isaac was sixty years old when they were born.
 
Genesis 25 brothers27-28 The boys grew up. Esau became an expert hunter, an outdoorsman. Jacob was a quiet man preferring life indoors among the tents. Isaac loved Esau because he loved his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.
 
29-30 One day Jacob was cooking a stew. Esau came in from the field, starved. Esau said to Jacob, “Give me some of that red stew—I’m starved!” That’s how he came to be called Edom (Red).
 
31 Jacob said, “Make me a trade: my stew for your rights as the firstborn.”
 
32 Esau said, “I’m starving! What good is a birthright if I’m dead?”
 
33-34 Jacob said, “First, swear to me.” And he did it. On oath Esau traded away his rights as the firstborn. Jacob gave him bread and the stew of lentils. He ate and drank, got up and left. That’s how Esau shrugged off his rights as the firstborn.
 
WHAT WE LEARN FROM ABRAHAM’S “DASH”…
 
Genesis 14 life of AbramAbraham’s “obituary” is found in verses 7-8. He died “in a good old age” as the Lord had promised him (Gen. 15:15). He had walked with the Lord for a century (12:4) and had been “the Friend of God” (James 2:23).
 
Old age is “good” if you have the blessing of the Lord on your life (Prov. 16:31). In spite of physical deterioration and weakness, we can enjoy His presence and do His will until the very end (2 Cor. 4:16–5:8).
 
Like Sarah before him, Abraham “died in faith.” For one hundred years, he had been a stranger and a pilgrim on the earth, seeking a heavenly country, and now his desires were fulfilled (Heb. 11:13-16). His life had not been an easy one, but he had walked by faith a day at a time, and the Lord had brought him through. Whenever Abraham failed the Lord, he returned to Him and started over again, and the Lord gave him a new beginning.
 
Genesis 25 Father of faithHe also died “full of years” (Gen. 25:8). This suggests more than a quantity of time; it suggests a quality of life.
 
James Strahan translates it “satisfied with life” (Hebrew Ideals, 197). Abraham, who was flourishing and fruitful to the very end, fulfilled the picture of old age given in Psalm 92:12-15.
 
How few people really experience joy and satisfaction when they reach old age! When they look back, it is with regret; when they look ahead, it is with fear; and when they look around, it is with complaint.
 
An anonymous wit claimed that he would rather be “over the hill” than under it. But death is not a threat to the person who trusts Jesus Christ and lives by His Word. Old age can be a time of rich experience in the Lord and wonderful opportunities to share Him with the next generation (Ps. 48:13-14; 78:5-7). Then, when death comes, you go to meet the Lord with joyful confidence.
 
God promised that Abraham would die “in peace” (Gen. 15:15), and he did. Welsh poet Dylan Thomas wrote that “old age should burn and rave at close of day,” but that is not the Christian approach to old age or death. Abraham was saved by faith (v. 6), so he had “peace with God” (Rom. 5:1). He had walked in the way of righteousness, so he experienced the peace of God (Isa. 32:17). The God who had guided him for a century would not forsake him at the very end (46:4).
 
Like everything else in life, to be successful in old age, you must start working at it very young. That is the counsel Solomon gives in Ecclesiastes 12. The chapter describes some of the inevitable physical problems of old age, but it also emphasizes that a godly life beginning in one’s youth is an investment that pays rich dividends when life draws to a close.
 
One day, you will be “gathered to your people.” If God’s people were your people in life, then you will be with them after death in the home that Jesus is now preparing (John 14:1-6). If the Christian family is not your “people,” then you will be with the crowd that is going to hell, and it is described in Revelation 21:8, 27. You had better make the right choice, because eternity is forever.
 
HOLY PAUSE
Where is my “dash” living leading me?
 
Genesis 25 becauseTHE WILL
Abraham left his material wealth to his family and his spiritual wealth to the whole world, all who would believe on Jesus Christ. Isaac was God’s choice to carry on the covenant line. Keturah’s sons received gifts, but Isaac received the inheritance and the blessings of the covenant.
 
All who have trusted Jesus Christ “as Isaac was, are the children of promise” (Gal. 4:28). This means that we have a share in Abraham’s will! What did he leave us?
 
SAVED BY FAITH
To begin with, Abraham left us a clear witness of salvation through faith. Paul cited his example in Romans 4:1-5, relating it to Abraham’s experience in Genesis 15. Abraham could not have been saved by keeping the law because the law had not yet been given. He could not have been saved by the ritual of circumcision because God declared him to be righteous long before Abraham was circumcised. Like everybody else who has ever been saved, Abraham was saved by faith and by faith alone (Heb. 11; Gal. 3).
 
LIVE BY FAITH
Abraham also leaves us the example of a faithful life. James used Abraham to illustrate the importance of proving our faith by our works (James 2:14-26). Wherever Abraham went, he pitched his tent and built his altar, and he let the people of the land know that he was a worshiper of the true and living God. When he offered Isaac on the altar, Abraham proved his faith in God and his love for God. He was not saved by works, but he proved his faith by his works.
 
From Abraham, we learn how to walk by faith. True, he had his occasional lapses of faith, but the general manner of his life evidenced faith in God’s Word. “By faith Abraham … obeyed” (Heb. 11:8). “The pith, the essence of faith,” said Charles Spurgeon, “lies in this: a casting oneself on the promises.”
 
Gnesis 12 journey of faithTrue faith is our obedient response to the Word of God. God speaks, we hear Him and believe, and we do what He tells us to do. Abraham and Sarah held on to God’s promises and God rewarded their faith.
 
Finally, because of Abraham, we have a Savior. In the first verse of the New Testament (Matt. 1:1), Abraham’s name is joined with the names of David and Jesus Christ! God promised Abraham that through him all the world would be blessed (Gen. 12:1-3), and He has kept that promise.
 
There can be only one Abraham and Sarah in God’s great plan of redemption, but you and I have our tasks to perform in the will of God (Eph. 2:10).
 
OUR DASH
Today, at this very minute, we are writing our obituary and preparing our “last will and testament” as far as our spiritual heritage is concerned. Today we are getting ready for the last stage of life’s journey.
 
Are we making good preparations?
 
Are we living by faith?
 
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God”. (Micah 6:8, NIV)
 
Father God,
Your Friend, Abraham was not perfect, but He was still your forgiven Friend. You guided him meticulously through life. You promised a Savior through his genetic line and you delivered. Oh, how grateful we are that you did! This story of a man called Abraham is really all about you and your love, promises, provisions, power and protection that is offered to all of us. Thank you, Lord for this reminder of who YOU are. continue to transform me. Help me to live my “dash” well.
In Jesus Name, Amen
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THEN I’LL KNOW…

Genesis – First, God.
 
Genesis 24 all of God
We do not test God, but we can ask God for clarity in the details of His will in our lives. There have been times in my life when I took a huge leap of faith into a new work. I wanted to make sure that it was God leading me because of the challenge. It wasn’t that I doubted God…ever…it was my doubt. Am I hearing God correctly? Is my fear clouding His will? I will jump but I need to know if I am jumping into what God wants, not just what needs to be done. Does He want me to do it?
 
Like many Bible heroes we read about, it seems okay with God to ask Him for clarity in his will for us as we journey this earth. It is okay, like Abraham’s servant, we will read about in this passage to be specific in asking for what God wants. Like the servant who, heart and soul, passionately wanted to please his master, Abraham, with choosing his son’s wife, we want to be sure in our lives that we are following God’s plan for our lives in every detail.
 
Before and after an interview for one of the most challenging jobs of my life, I wanted God’s will. If they gave the job to me, it meant I would leave teaching elementary children that I loved and be in full time ministry. I was called to teach. So, both were ministry options I would enjoy. For clarity, I asked God to allow me to hear these words from the 8 men on the search committee after the interview, “WE have UNANIMOUSLY decided that you should be the one…”
 
Genesis 24 on trackThe word “unanimous” was the key word for me. It would mean God was in this. It would mean that God led them to tell me that this was indeed God’s will for my life.
 
Guess what? Those were the EXACT words the leader said first when he called to offer me the job. You will never convince me that God does not hear our humble prayers for help and wisdom in discerning his will for our lives. He proves it over and over in my own life!
 
Faithful servants like Abraham’s senior servant passionately wanted clarity of God’s will for his master’s son, Isaac. He asked questions of his Master to make sure all the details were understood. THEN he asked for God’s help to find just the right woman for Isaac. Why? He wanted to please his master. He loved Abraham and he loved his son, Isaac. He also wanted what God wanted. This attitude of heart and humility is needed when we present our requests to God for decision making in our lives.
 
Don’t we want to please our Master and Lord? Of course, we do. So we ask for help in discernment and wisdom. God will give it. Every time. (See James 1:5)
 
Now, enjoy the true story of God helping his beloved people…
 
Genesis 24, The Message
Genesis 24 God leadsAbraham was now an old man. God had blessed Abraham in every way.
 
2-4 Abraham spoke to the senior servant in his household, the one in charge of everything he had, “Put your hand under my thigh and swear by God—God of Heaven, God of Earth—that you will not get a wife for my son from among the young women of the Canaanites here, but will go to the land of my birth and get a wife for my son Isaac.”
 
5 The servant answered, “But what if the woman refuses to leave home and come with me? Do I then take your son back to your home country?”
 
6-8 Abraham said, “Oh no. Never. By no means are you to take my son back there. God, the God of Heaven, took me from the home of my father and from the country of my birth and spoke to me in solemn promise, ‘I’m giving this land to your descendants.’ This God will send his angel ahead of you to get a wife for my son. And if the woman won’t come, you are free from this oath you’ve sworn to me. But under no circumstances are you to take my son back there.”
 
9 So the servant put his hand under the thigh of his master Abraham and gave his solemn oath.
 
10-14 The servant took ten of his master’s camels and, loaded with gifts from his master, traveled to Aram Naharaim and the city of Nahor. Outside the city, he made the camels kneel at a well. It was evening, the time when the women came to draw water. He prayed, “O God, God of my master Abraham, make things go smoothly this day; treat my master Abraham well! As I stand here by the spring while the young women of the town come out to get water, let the girl to whom I say, ‘Lower your jug and give me a drink,’ and who answers, ‘Drink, and let me also water your camels’—let her be the woman you have picked out for your servant Isaac. Then I’ll know that you’re working graciously behind the scenes for my master.”
Genesis 24 well
15-17 It so happened that the words were barely out of his mouth when Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel whose mother was Milcah the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, came out with a water jug on her shoulder. The girl was stunningly beautiful, a pure virgin. She went down to the spring, filled her jug, and came back up. The servant ran to meet her and said, “Please, can I have a sip of water from your jug?”
 
18-21 She said, “Certainly, drink!” And she held the jug so that he could drink. When he had satisfied his thirst she said, “I’ll get water for your camels, too, until they’ve drunk their fill.” She promptly emptied her jug into the trough and ran back to the well to fill it, and she kept at it until she had watered all the camels.
 
The man watched, silent. Was this God’s answer? Had God made his trip a success or not?
 
22-23 When the camels had finished drinking, the man brought out gifts, a gold nose ring weighing a little over a quarter of an ounce and two arm bracelets weighing about four ounces, and gave them to her. He asked her, “Tell me about your family? Whose daughter are you? Is there room in your father’s house for us to stay the night?”
 
24-25 She said, “I’m the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah and Nahor. And there’s plenty of room in our house for you to stay—and lots of straw and feed besides.”
 
Genesis 24 pray26-27 At this the man bowed in worship before God and prayed, “Blessed be God, God of my master Abraham: How generous and true you’ve been to my master; you’ve held nothing back. You led me right to the door of my master’s brother!”
 
28 And the girl was off and running, telling everyone in her mother’s house what had happened.
 
29-31 Rebekah had a brother named Laban. Laban ran outside to the man at the spring. He had seen the nose ring and the bracelets on his sister and had heard her say, “The man said this and this and this to me.” So he went to the man and there he was, still standing with his camels at the spring. Laban welcomed him: “Come on in, blessed of God! Why are you standing out here? I’ve got the house ready for you; and there’s also a place for your camels.”
 
32-33 So the man went into the house. The camels were unloaded and given straw and feed. Water was brought to bathe the feet of the man and the men with him. Then Laban brought out food. But the man said, “I won’t eat until I tell my story.”
 
Laban said, “Go ahead; tell us.”
 
34-41 The servant said, “I’m the servant of Abraham. God has blessed my master—he’s a great man; God has given him sheep and cattle, silver and gold, servants and maidservants, camels and donkeys. And then to top it off, Sarah, my master’s wife, gave him a son in her old age and he has passed everything on to his son. My master made me promise, ‘Don’t get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites in whose land I live. No, go to my father’s home, back to my family, and get a wife for my son there.’ I said to my master, ‘But what if the woman won’t come with me?’ He said, ‘God before whom I’ve walked faithfully will send his angel with you and he’ll make things work out so that you’ll bring back a wife for my son from my family, from the house of my father. Then you’ll be free from the oath. If you go to my family and they won’t give her to you, you will also be free from the oath.’
 
42-44 “Well, when I came this very day to the spring, I prayed, ‘God, God of my master Abraham, make things turn out well in this task I’ve been given. I’m standing at this well. When a young woman comes here to draw water and I say to her, Please, give me a sip of water from your jug, and she says, Not only will I give you a drink, I’ll also water your camels—let that woman be the wife God has picked out for my master’s son.’
 
Genesis 24 worship God45-48 “I had barely finished offering this prayer, when Rebekah arrived, her jug on her shoulder. She went to the spring and drew water and I said, ‘Please, can I have a drink?’ She didn’t hesitate. She held out her jug and said, ‘Drink; and when you’re finished I’ll also water your camels.’ I drank, and she watered the camels. I asked her, ‘Whose daughter are you?’ She said, ‘The daughter of Bethuel whose parents were Nahor and Milcah.’ I gave her a ring for her nose, bracelets for her arms, and bowed in worship to God. I praised God, the God of my master Abraham who had led me straight to the door of my master’s family to get a wife for his son.
 
49 “Now, tell me what you are going to do. If you plan to respond with a generous yes, tell me. But if not, tell me plainly so I can figure out what to do next.”
 
50-51 Laban and Bethuel answered, “This is totally from God. We have no say in the matter, either yes or no. Rebekah is yours: Take her and go; let her be the wife of your master’s son, as God has made plain.”
 
52-54 When Abraham’s servant heard their decision, he bowed in worship before God. Then he brought out gifts of silver and gold and clothing and gave them to Rebekah. He also gave expensive gifts to her brother and mother. He and his men had supper and spent the night. But first thing in the morning they were up. He said, “Send me back to my master.”
 
55 Her brother and mother said, “Let the girl stay a while, say another ten days, and then go.”
 
56 He said, “Oh, don’t make me wait! God has worked everything out so well—send me off to my master.”
 
57 They said, “We’ll call the girl; we’ll ask her.”
 
They called Rebekah and asked her, “Do you want to go with this man?”
 
Genesis 24 true love58 She said, “I’m ready to go.”
 
59-60 So they sent them off, their sister Rebekah with her nurse, and Abraham’s servant with his men. And they blessed Rebekah saying,
 
You’re our sister—live bountifully!
And your children, triumphantly!
 
61 Rebekah and her young maids mounted the camels and followed the man. The servant took Rebekah and set off for home.
 
62-65 Isaac was living in the Negev. He had just come back from a visit to Beer Lahai Roi. In the evening he went out into the field; while meditating he looked up and saw camels coming. When Rebekah looked up and saw Isaac, she got down from her camel and asked the servant, “Who is that man out in the field coming toward us?”
 
“That is my master.”
 
She took her veil and covered herself.
 
66-67 After the servant told Isaac the whole story of the trip, Isaac took Rebekah into the tent of his mother Sarah. He married Rebekah and she became his wife and he loved her. So Isaac found comfort after his mother’s death.
 
Genesis 24 hearTHINK ABOUT IT…
 
“When Abraham’s servant heard their decision, he bowed in worship before God.” Give credit to God for all He has done, is doing and will do. Our hearing of God’s voice gets better when we worship God for Who He really is, giving HIM all the praise for success!
 
God was also working with Rebekah and her father to work out the details on their end with a desire to please Him. Wow. Isn’t God amazing?
 
“I’m ready to go”, says Rebekah. Are we?
 
Oh Father in Heaven,
How great you are! How amazing are your works among us! How wonderful to call you Father and know that you are always present and at work among those who believe. Thank you for the many ways you work out all the details of our lives!  I believe. I am eternally grateful. I am yours.
In Jesus Name, Amen
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ABRAHAM TAKES POSSESSION

Genesis – First, God
 
472It is probably one of the hardest acts to do in life when you purchase enough land, from strangers, to bury your mom and then your dad. We live in Indiana. Ministry moved us here. We grew up in Oklahoma.
 
We moved my parents from Oklahoma to Indiana as they aged so they could be near us. It was a struggle for them to leave the land they loved, their friends at church, and all that was known to them. But it was becoming more of a struggle to not be where we were so we could help them with daily tasks that only family should do.
 
It was suggested that they move closer to us, our grown kids and their families who live nearby a few times over the years, but I knew it had to be their choice, their timing (and God’s) for this move. Even though we age, we should still have the ability to choose at God’s prompting.
 
God prompted mom first and then dad. Mom called me one day and announced, “It’s time, we’re ready to move.” We jumped into action and took all the steps necessary to sell their lovely home, downsize their belongings and plan the move. Mom did what she could on their end as she was always good with organizing paperwork and tasks. From our end, God led me to a wonderful condo that was just a few minutes from our house. The condos were just being built so for the first time in their lives they would move into something brand new. The move was made.
 
Camp CallawayOnly a couple of years later, mom progressively lost strength. As she knew she was nearing the close of this chapter, she told Randy and I not take her body back to Oklahoma to be buried. “TOO expensive”, she said with a grin, even though the plot was paid for in Oklahoma by other family plots. “Purchase a plot of ground in a cemetery here”, she said. “I won’t really be there. I will be in a better place anyway, so it doesn’t matter.”
 
We are all just passing through this earth, strangers in a foreign land called the world with worldview thinking people. That ache in our hearts as we move about from place to place is a longing to live forever with Jesus someday!
 
Paul eloquently writes about our final home, “For instance, we know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven—God-made, not handmade—and we’ll never have to relocate our “tents” again.”
 
“Sometimes we can hardly wait to move—and so we cry out in frustration. Compared to what’s coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we’re tired of it! We’ve been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less.” 2 Corinthians 5:1-5, The Message
 
Abraham lived in tents as he was a “rancher” of sorts. He traveled about on the land owned by others, but land that God said was his to possess. When Sarah dies, where will he bury his precious wife, his princess? He buys land, (that he already owns according to God). His humility, wisdom and integrity is astounding and to be admired! Leaders want to give him the land because of who he is, but he insists on paying full price. He makes the transaction in front of the community leaders, the tradition of the day, so that the contract is complete in the eyes of all who know him.
 
His beloved Sarah is buried in a purchased cave to be memorialized. Abraham finally “owns” a piece of land.
 
Genesis 23, The Message
Genesis 23 Sarah
1-2 Sarah lived 127 years. Sarah died in Kiriath Arba, present-day Hebron, in the land of Canaan. Abraham mourned for Sarah and wept.
 
3-4 Then Abraham got up from mourning his dead wife and spoke to the Hittites: “I know I’m only an outsider here among you, but sell me a burial plot so that I can bury my dead decently.”
 
5-6 The Hittites responded, “Why, you’re no mere outsider here with us, you’re a prince of God! Bury your dead wife in the best of our burial sites. None of us will refuse you a place for burial.”
 
7Genesis 23 a stranger-9 Then Abraham got up, bowed respectfully to the people of the land, the Hittites, and said, “If you’re serious about helping me give my wife a proper burial, intercede for me with Ephron son of Zohar. Ask him to sell me the cave of Machpelah that he owns, the one at the end of his land. Ask him to sell it to me at its full price for a burial plot, with you as witnesses.”
 
10-11 Ephron was part of the local Hittite community. Then Ephron the Hittite spoke up, answering Abraham with all the Hittites who were part of the town council listening: “Oh no, my master! I couldn’t do that. The field is yours—a gift. I’ll give it and the cave to you. With my people as witnesses, I give it to you. Bury your deceased wife.”
 
12-13 Abraham bowed respectfully before the assembled council and answered Ephron: “Please allow me—I want to pay the price of the land; take my money so that I can go ahead and bury my wife.”
 
14-15 Then Ephron answered Abraham, “If you insist, master. What’s four hundred silver shekels between us? Now go ahead and bury your wife.”
 
16 Abraham accepted Ephron’s offer and paid out the sum that Ephron had named before the town council of Hittites—four hundred silver shekels at the current exchange rate.
 
17-20 That’s how Ephron’s field next to Mamre—the field, its cave, and all the trees within its borders—became Abraham’s property. The town council of Hittites witnessed the transaction. Abraham then proceeded to bury his wife Sarah in the cave in the field of Machpelah that is next to Mamre, present-day Hebron, in the land of Canaan. The field and its cave went from the Hittites into Abraham’s possession as a burial plot.
 
DID YOU KNOW…?
 
Genesis 23 portraitSarah had been a good wife to Abraham and a good mother to Isaac. Yes, she had her faults, as we all do, but God called her a princess (Gen. 17:15) and listed her with the heroes and heroines of faith (Heb. 11:11). The apostle Peter named her as a good example for Christian wives to follow (1 Peter 3:1-6), and Paul used her to illustrate the grace of God in the life of the believer (Gal. 4:21-31).
 
Abraham loved his wife, and her death was a painful experience for him. He showed his love and his grief by his weeping. These are the first recorded tears in the Bible, and tears will not end until God wipes them away in glory (Rev. 21:4). Even though he was a man of faith, Abraham did not feel that his tears were an evidence of unbelief.
 
Genesis 23 the life ofSarah died in faith (Heb. 11:11, 13), so Abraham knew that she was in the Lord’s care. In the Old Testament, very little was revealed about the afterlife, but God’s people knew that God would receive them when they died (Ps. 73:24).
 
The late Vance Havner had a wife named Sarah. Shortly after her untimely death, I was with Dr. Havner at the Moody Bible Institute, and I shared my condolences with him.
 
“I’m sorry to hear you lost your wife,” I said to him when we met in the dining room.
 
He smiled and replied, “Son, when you know where something is, you haven’t lost it.”
 
For the believer, to be “absent from the body” means to be “present with the Lord” (Phil. 1:21-23; 2 Cor. 5:1-8 nkjv); so Christians do not approach death with fear. “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord … that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them” (Rev. 14:13).
 
JUST PASSING THROUGH…
Even though this world is not our home, we must be careful as pilgrims and strangers to have a good witness to those who are outside the faith (1 Thess. 4:12; Col. 4:5; 1 Peter 2:11ff.). These Hittites did not worship Abraham’s God, but they respected Abraham and his faith. In fact, they offered him the use of one of their own tombs (Gen. 23:6), but Abraham refused.
 
HOLY PAUSE
Do our neighbors and acquaintances respect us and our faith?
 
Do they know us by our integrity and humility?
 
Do they know us by our love for God and our love for them?
 
It is a wonderful thing in a time of sorrow when the child of God has a strong witness to the lost. There is a natural sorrow that everyone expects us to manifest, but there is also a supernatural grace that God gives so that we might have joy in the midst of sorrow. The unsaved can tell the difference, and this gives us opportunity for sharing the good news of the gospel.
 
THINK ABOUT IT…
When you get to the end of Genesis, you find that Abraham’s tomb is quite full. Sarah was buried there, and then Abraham, Isaac, Rebekah, and Leah (Gen. 49:29-31); and then Jacob joined them (50:13). Genesis ends with a full tomb, but the four gospels end with an empty tomb!
 
Abraham owned the whole land, but the only piece of property that was legally his was a tomb. If the Lord Jesus does not return to take us to heaven, the only piece of property each of us will own in this world will be a plot in the cemetery! We will take nothing with us; we will leave it all behind (1 Tim. 6:7). But if we are investing in things eternal, we can send it ahead (Matt. 6:19-34). If we live by faith, then we can die by faith, and when you die by faith, you have a wonderful future.
 
Genesis 23 cemeteryMy mom, dad and both sets of grandparents knew this. I know this. I cling to what Jesus said,
 
“In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I am going away to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and welcome you into My presence, so that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”…Berean Study Bible John 14:1-3
 
I know where I am going, do you? I pray you do so we can be together with Jesus forever!
 
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for the reassurance of where we are headed. I love you with all that is in me. I know where I am going. I am grateful for the “great cloud of witnesses” who have gone on before me. I am eternally grateful to you who saved my soul and reconciled my relationship with you, all because of your sacrifice. No more words in my vocabulary for that gift.
In Jesus Name, Amen
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THE TEST

Genesis – First, God
 
What is God asking you to lay down so that your trust and faith in Him is complete?
 
PAUSE TO PRAY…then read the story of Abraham and Isaac.
 
Genesis 22, The Message
After all this, God tested Abraham. God said, “Abraham!”
 
“Yes?” answered Abraham. “I’m listening.”
 
2 He said, “Take your dear son Isaac whom you love and go to the land of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I’ll point out to you.”
 
3-5 Abraham got up early in the morning and saddled his donkey. He took two of his young servants and his son Isaac. He had split wood for the burnt offering. He set out for the place God had directed him. On the third day he looked up and saw the place in the distance. Abraham told his two young servants, “Stay here with the donkey. The boy and I are going over there to worship; then we’ll come back to you.”
 
6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and gave it to Isaac his son to carry. He carried the flint and the knife. The two of them went off together.
 
7 Isaac said to Abraham his father, “Father?”
 
“Yes, my son.”
 
“We have flint and wood, but where’s the sheep for the burnt offering?”
 
8 Abraham said, “Son, God will see to it that there’s a sheep for the burnt offering.” And they kept on walking together.
 
9-10 They arrived at the place to which God had directed him. Abraham built an altar. He laid out the wood. Then he tied up Isaac and laid him on the wood. Abraham reached out and took the knife to kill his son.
 
11 Just then an angel of God called to him out of Heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
 
Genesis 22 real faith“Yes, I’m listening.”
 
12 “Don’t lay a hand on that boy! Don’t touch him! Now I know how fearlessly you fear God; you didn’t hesitate to place your son, your dear son, on the altar for me.”
 
13 Abraham looked up. He saw a ram caught by its horns in the thicket. Abraham took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.
 
14 Abraham named that place God-Yireh (God-Sees-to-It). That’s where we get the saying, “On the mountain of God, he sees to it.”
 
15-18 The angel of God spoke from Heaven a second time to Abraham: “I swear—God’s sure word!—because you have gone through with this, and have not refused to give me your son, your dear, dear son, I’ll bless you—oh, how I’ll bless you! And I’ll make sure that your children flourish—like stars in the sky! like sand on the beaches! And your descendants will defeat their enemies. All nations on Earth will find themselves blessed through your descendants because you obeyed me.”
 
19 Then Abraham went back to his young servants. They got things together and returned to Beersheba. Abraham settled down in Beersheba.
 
20-23 After all this, Abraham got the news: “Your brother Nahor is a father! Milcah has given him children: Uz, his firstborn, his brother Buz, Kemuel (he was the father of Aram), Kesed, Hazo, Pildash, Jidlaph, and Bethuel.” (Bethuel was the father of Rebekah.) Milcah gave these eight sons to Nahor, Abraham’s brother.
 
24 His concubine, Reumah, gave him four more children: Tebah, Gaham, Tahash, and Maacah.
 
HOLY PAUSE
What is God asking you to lay down so that your trust and faith in Him is complete?
 
Dear Heavenly Father,
Your Word, Your Holy Spirit and Your Voice speaks volumes to us this morning. This is personal. This affects our relationship. I lay my Isaac down.
In Jesus Name, Amen
 
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GOD DOES WHAT GOD SAYS

Genesis – First, God.
 
Genesis 21 as He saidOur faith becomes faulty when we change our minds as our moods change. When we lead by our feelings, doubts easily slip in. We do things on our own to “help God”, especially when we think He forgot us or what He told us He would do in our lives.
 
We can be solid in our faith in God one day and then questioning ourselves the next. We might not be challenging God as much as we doubt our ability to hear God well. We want to obey, but sometimes circumstances distract us from God’s unchanging love, mercy, grace, wisdom and commandments. Sometimes life dulls our hearing. Other times we allow the louder world voices to drown out the voice of God.
 
But God knows. God knows what He is doing and when the time is right to do it. God still will do EXACTLY what He says He will do in our lives for His purpose and for His glory. He will accomplish what He proclaims.
 
Fact: God does not need us to do His will. Shocking? Accept it. He will do what He says, even when you are not “in the mood”. He will do what He intends with or without us. So, what a divine privilege it is when, like Abraham and Sarah, He invites us to HIS work, HIS plan, HIS purposes to bring the world into relationship with Him.
Genesis 21 wait for it...
Yes, my friends, God will prevail. God provided a son to Sarah “exactly as He said He would; God did to Sarah what he promised”, even when Sarah disobeyed God and took matters into her own hands. Because Sarah did not wait on God to do what He said He would, a very awkward family situation has been created. The maid’s son by Abraham has been thrown out…but God hears Hagar’s cries, intervenes and comes to her aid.
 
Genesis 21, The Message
Genesis 21 just as He promised
1-4 God visited Sarah exactly as he said he would; God did to Sarah what he promised: Sarah became pregnant and gave Abraham a son in his old age, and at the very time God had set. Abraham named him Isaac. When his son was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him just as God had commanded.
 
5-6 Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born.
 
Sarah said,
 
God has blessed me with laughter
and all who get the news will laugh with me!
 
Genesis 21 family7 She also said,
 
Whoever would have suggested to Abraham
that Sarah would one day nurse a baby!
Yet here I am! I’ve given the old man a son!
 
8 The baby grew and was weaned. Abraham threw a big party on the day Isaac was weaned.
 
9-10 One day Sarah saw the son that Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham, poking fun at her son Isaac. She told Abraham, “Get rid of this slave woman and her son. No child of this slave is going to share inheritance with my son Isaac!”
 
11-13 The matter gave great pain to Abraham—after all, Ishmael was his son. But God spoke to Abraham, “Don’t feel badly about the boy and your maid. Do whatever Sarah tells you. Your descendants will come through Isaac. Regarding your maid’s son, be assured that I’ll also develop a great nation from him—he’s your son, too.”
Genesis 21 God heard
14-16 Abraham got up early the next morning, got some food together and a canteen of water for Hagar, put them on her back and sent her away with the child. She wandered off into the desert of Beersheba. When the water was gone, she left the child under a shrub and went off, fifty yards or so. She said, “I can’t watch my son die.” As she sat, she broke into sobs.
 
Genesis 21 God heard me
17-18 Meanwhile, God heard the boy crying. The angel of God called from Heaven to Hagar, “What’s wrong, Hagar? Don’t be afraid. God has heard the boy and knows the fix he’s in. Up now; go get the boy. Hold him tight. I’m going to make of him a great nation.”
 
19 Just then God opened her eyes. She looked. She saw a well of water. She went to it and filled her canteen and gave the boy a long, cool drink.
 
20-21 God was on the boy’s side as he grew up. He lived out in the desert and became a skilled archer. He lived in the Paran wilderness. And his mother got him a wife from Egypt.
 
22-23 At about that same time, Abimelech and the captain of his troops, Phicol, spoke to Abraham: “No matter what you do, God is on your side. So swear to me that you won’t do anything underhanded to me or any of my family. For as long as you live here, swear that you’ll treat me and my land as well as I’ve treated you.”
 
24 Abraham said, “I swear it.”
 
25-26 At the same time, Abraham confronted Abimelech over the matter of a well of water that Abimelech’s servants had taken. Abimelech said, “I have no idea who did this; you never told me about it; this is the first I’ve heard of it.”
 
Genesis 21 God is with you27-28 So the two of them made a covenant. Abraham took sheep and cattle and gave them to Abimelech. Abraham set aside seven sheep from his flock.
 
29 Abimelech said, “What does this mean? These seven sheep you’ve set aside.”
 
30 Abraham said, “It means that when you accept these seven sheep, you take it as proof that I dug this well, that it’s my well.”
 
31-32 That’s how the place got named Beersheba (the Oath-Well), because the two of them swore a covenant oath there. After they had made the covenant at Beersheba, Abimelech and his commander, Phicol, left and went back to Philistine territory.
 
33-34 Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba and worshiped God there, praying to the Eternal God. Abraham lived in Philistine country for a long time.
 
WHAT DO WE NEED TO KNOW?
Genesiss 21 old and laughWhile we are here on earth, we must expect both joy and sorrow, laughter and tears. You cannot have hills without valleys.
 
This is especially true of family life, for the same people who bring us joy can also bring us sorrow. Relationships can become strained and then change overnight, and we wonder what happened to a happy home. A Chinese proverb says, “Nobody’s family can hang out the sign ‘Nothing the matter here.’”
 
The coming of Isaac into their home brought both sorrow and joy to Abraham and Sarah. As you look at the persons involved in this important event, you can learn some valuable lessons about basic Christian doctrine and how to live the Christian life.
 
Genesis 21 Seeing JesusSarah had borne the burden of childlessness for many years, a heavy burden indeed in that culture and at that time. People must have smiled when they heard that her husband’s name was Abraham, “father of a multitude.” He was the father of one son, Ishmael, but that was far from a multitude, and Sarah had never given birth. But now all of her reproach was ended, and they were rejoicing in the arrival of their son.
 
But the birth of Isaac involved much more than parental joy, for his birth meant the fulfillment of God’s promise. When God had called Abraham, He promised to make of him a great nation that would bless the whole world (Gen. 12:1-3). Then He repeatedly promised to give the land of Canaan to Abraham’s descendants (17:7) and to multiply them greatly (13:15-17). Abraham would be the father of the promised seed (15:4), and Sarah (not Hagar) would be the mother (17:19; 18:9-15). The birth of Isaac reminds us that God keeps His promises in His own way and in His own time. In spite of their occasional failures, Abraham and Sarah believed God, and God honored their faith (Heb. 11:8-11).
 
Even when we mess up, God prevails in His promises and purposes.
 
Faith in God’s promises releases God’s power!
Genesis 21 family of JesusThe birth of Isaac was certainly the revelation of God’s power. That was one reason why God waited so long: He wanted Abraham and Sarah to be “as good as dead” so that their son’s birth would be a miracle of God and not a marvel of human nature (Rom. 4:17-21).
 
The birth of Isaac was a step forward in the accomplishing of God’s purpose. The future redemption of a lost world rested with a little baby boy! Isaac would beget Jacob, and Jacob would give the world the twelve tribes of Israel, and from Israel the promised Messiah would be born. Down through the centuries, some of the “living links” in the chain of promise may have seemed insignificant and weak, but they helped to fulfill the purposes of God.
 
You may wonder if what you do is really important to God and His work in this world, but it is if you are faithful to trust His Word and do His will. The next time you feel defeated and discouraged, remember Abraham and Sarah, and remind yourself that faith and promise go together. God keeps His promises and gives you the power you need to do what He wants you to do. No matter how long you may have to wait, you can trust God to accomplish His purposes.
 
Isaac was born free, while Ishmael was the son of a slave (Gal. 4:22). Freedom is one of the key themes in Galatians (5:1) and one of the key blessings in the Christian life (4:31). Of course, Christian freedom does not mean anarchy; for that is the worst kind of bondage. It means the freedom to be and to do all that God has for us in Jesus Christ.
 
Genesis 20 Abraham and Sarah“No man in this world attains to freedom from any slavery except by entrance into some higher servitude,” said Phillips Brooks, and that “higher servitude” is personal surrender to Jesus Christ. No one is more free than the child of God who delights in God’s will and does it from the heart.
 
Dear Heavenly Father,
We see your power at work in the lives of your people who are flawed but faithful. Our heroes of faith are human. We also see that, no matter what, YOUR Will and Purpose will be accomplished. Faith is truly the victory as the old hymn proclaims. Our faith, Your victory overcomes the world. I will rest in your promises and meditate on your power, love, mercy and grace to me and all who have gone on before me. Thank you for allowing me to join You in your work from time to time. May all we think, do or say be pleasing to you.
In Jesus Name, Amen
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WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?

Genesis – First, God.
 
Genesis 20 skateboard“What were you thinking?” How many times has this question been asked of us when we were kids right after doing foolish things? For example, going down a steep driveway with bulky tar strips dividing it in two places while barefoot on an old skateboard with actual skate wheels, not the kind we have today, was a bit challenging for me.
Genesis 20 skate
I concentrated so hard on how I would jump those tar strips that I didn’t see the oncoming car on the road. I made it over the strips but crashed at the end to avoid the car. I would have been fine had the car’s owner decided to honk his horn! “What were you thinking?”, yelled my parents. I wasn’t thinking of all the consequences. I was a kid.
 
How many times have you asked this of your own kids and even your spouse? It seems we leave all wisdom behind to do things out of fear and thrills, without thinking of the consequences for ourselves and others.
 
When anyone hastily says, “here, hold my coat (or beer)” or “step aside and let me…” these are pretty good clues that trouble might happen. Funniest Home Videos have made millions on our “what were you thinking” acts of foolish behavior.
 
AND, It’s really foolish to the SAME thing again!
 
Abraham, what were you thinking?
 
Genesis 20, The Message
Genesis 20 A and A1-2 Abraham traveled from there south to the Negev and settled down between Kadesh and Shur. While he was camping in Gerar, Abraham said of his wife Sarah, “She’s my sister.”
 
2-3 So Abimelech, king of Gerar, sent for Sarah and took her. But God came to Abimelech in a dream that night and told him, “You’re as good as dead—that woman you took, she’s a married woman.”
 
Genesis 20 64-5 Now Abimelech had not yet slept with her, hadn’t so much as touched her. He said, “Master, would you kill an innocent man? Didn’t he tell me, ‘She’s my sister’? And didn’t she herself say, ‘He’s my brother’? I had no idea I was doing anything wrong when I did this.”
 
6-7 God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know your intentions were pure, that’s why I kept you from sinning against me; I was the one who kept you from going to bed with her. So now give the man’s wife back to him. He’s a prophet and will pray for you—pray for your life. If you don’t give her back, know that it’s certain death both for you and everyone in your family.”
 
Genesis 20 what were8-9 Abimelech was up first thing in the morning. He called all his house servants together and told them the whole story. They were shocked. Then Abimelech called in Abraham and said, “What have you done to us? What have I ever done to you that you would bring on me and my kingdom this huge offense? What you’ve done to me ought never to have been done.”
 
10 Abimelech went on to Abraham, “Whatever were you thinking of when you did this thing?”
 
11-13 Abraham said, “I just assumed that there was no fear of God in this place and that they’d kill me to get my wife. Besides, the truth is that she is my half sister; she’s my father’s daughter but not my mother’s. When God sent me out as a wanderer from my father’s home, I told her, ‘Do me a favor; wherever we go, tell people that I’m your brother.’”
 
Genesis 20 three14-15 Then Abimelech gave Sarah back to Abraham, and along with her sent sheep and cattle and servants, both male and female. He said, “My land is open to you; live wherever you wish.”
 
16 And to Sarah he said, “I’ve given your brother a thousand pieces of silver—that clears you of even a shadow of suspicion before the eyes of the world. You’re vindicated.”
 
17-18 Then Abraham prayed to God and God healed Abimelech, his wife and his maidservants, and they started having babies again. For God had shut down every womb in Abimelech’s household on account of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.
 
WHAT WE NEED TO LEARN
 
If you did not know who Abraham was and you read this chapter for the first time, which of the two men would you say was the believer? Surely not Abraham, the liar! It was not Abraham who showed integrity, and it was not Abraham whom God kept from sinning. What Abraham did was selfish, but Abimelech responded with generosity. If anybody reveals excellent character, it is Abimelech and not Abraham, “the friend of God.”
 
Genesis 20 habitBut before you draw some unwarranted conclusions, take time to consider the facts revealed in this event. Abraham’s failures were tragic, but from them we learn some valuable lessons to help us in our walk of faith.
 
Believers do sin. This chapter would be an embarrassment to us except for one thing: The Bible tells the truth about all people, and that includes God’s people. These things are recorded, not to encourage us to sin, but to warn us to beware of sin. After all, if these great men of faith disobeyed the Lord, then we “ordinary saints” had better be very careful!
 
WHAT THEY WERE THINKING…Abraham and Sarah had convinced themselves that they were not telling a lie at all. It was only a “half-truth” (Gen. 20:12), and half-truths are not supposed to be as wicked as outright lies. They are worse! “A lie consists in the motive quite as much as in the actual words,” wrote F. B. Meyer. A half-truth has just enough fact in it to make it plausible and just enough deception to make it dangerous.
 
So, believers do sin, but that does not disannul their faith or destroy their salvation, though it may discredit their testimony. Abraham was still a child of God, even though his witness for the Lord had been greatly weakened. However, Abimelech was in a more dangerous position than Abraham, for Abimelech was under a sentence of death (vv. 3, 7).
 
Charles Spurgeon said, “God does not allow His children to sin successfully.” When we deliberately disobey God, we suffer both from the consequences of our sins and from the chastening hand of God, unless we repent and submit (Heb. 12:5-11). God in His grace will forgive our sins (1 John 1:5-10), but God in His sovereignty must allow sin to produce a sad harvest (Gal. 6:7). Read Psalms 32 and 51 to see what happened to David physically and spiritually because he would not repent and confess his sins to the Lord.
 
What did this one lie cost Abraham? To begin with, it cost him character. Phillips Brooks said, “The purpose of life is the building of character through truth.” God is not just “saving souls” and taking people to heaven. Through the trials and testing of life, He is making saved people more like Jesus Christ and thereby glorifying Himself.
 
Abraham stopped asking, “What is right?” and began asking, “What is safe?” and this led to his downfall. Once the salt has lost its taste, how do you restore it? He also lost his testimony. How could Abraham talk to his pagan neighbors about the God of truth when he himself had told a lie?
 
Perhaps one of the saddest consequences of Abraham’s sin was Isaac’s repetition of it years later (Gen. 26:7-11). It is sad when our sins affect outsiders, but it is sadder still when our sins are duplicated in our own families. In fact, Isaac’s lie was worse than his father’s because Sarah really was Abraham’s half sister, while Rebekah was only Isaac’s cousin.
 
HOLY PAUSE
 
What are you thinking now?
 
What sin needs to be brought into the open and confessed to God? (He knows.)
 
Genesis 20 Abraham and SarahWHAT IS GOOD TO KNOW…
God does not reject His children when they sin any more than a parent rejects a disobedient son or daughter. Abraham was justified by faith and had a righteous standing before God (Rom. 4:1-5).
 
Justification does not change; we are accepted in Jesus Christ no matter what we are in ourselves (2 Cor. 5:17, 21). Of course, the fact that we are justified before God means there will be a change in our lives, for “faith without works is dead” (James 2:20). But our position in Christ (justification) is not altered by our practice on earth (sanctification).
 
Genesis 20 LordThe important thing is that we deal with our sins humbly and honestly, confess them to God, judge them and forsake them, and claim His promises of forgiveness (1 John 1:9; Mic. 7:18-19; Isa. 55:6-13).
 
Abraham and Sarah made a new beginning, and so can you.
 
Dear Heavenly Father,
We come before you in humble adoration and grateful hearts for justification, “just as if” we had never sinned. We come in repentance and you meet us with forgiveness. You are mercy. You are Love and Light. You are grace beyond our thinking. You are God and we are not. Change our minds. Change the way we think to be more like you so we will behave more like you taught us.
In Jesus Name, Amen
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